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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawmakers in the Republican-led House of Representatives urged the White House on Thursday to drop consideration of a rule that would cut emissions of greenhouse gases from new power plants, saying it would harm the economy.
Representative Ed Whitfield, the chairman of a House panel on power and energy, wrote a letter signed by 221 House lawmakers, including 14 conservative Democrats, to Jeffrey Zients, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.
"We respectfully ask that you stop EPA's (greenhouse gas) rulemaking because of the devastating impact it will have on jobs and the economy," the letter said.
The OMB has been considering the Environmental Protection Agency's so-called New Source Performance Standards rule that would cut emissions of carbon dioxide, mostly from new coal-fired and modified power plants.
The office has met both environmental groups and power companies this month over the rules. But it declined to comment on the letter, saying it had not yet responded to the lawmakers.
Republicans in the House have opposed a slew of new EPA clean air rules, saying they will add costs to consumers and businesses as they struggle to recover from the weak economy.
Some power companies, including Southern Co and American Electric Power, have fought the rules saying they could harm the reliability of electricity deliveries, but many other companies that burn less coal have supported them.
The EPA did not immediately comment on the letter, but agency officials have said they expect the rules will be released early this year, even though they have already been delayed several times. EPA chief Lisa Jackson has said the clean air rules will protect human health and add jobs in pollution control equipment, a growing industry.
The NSPS rules could push new plants to capture and store carbon dioxide underground, but not for many years, because the technology has not matured yet. Part of the delay in issuing the rule has been in trying to figure out when to require plants to apply such advanced technologies.
The EPA issued the rule under a court settlement with three environmental groups and 10 states and sent it to the OMB for review in November where it has sat for longer than the typical 90 days such rules normally wait.
Vickie Patton, the general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the green groups that has sued the EPA to speed up the rules, slammed the charge that clean air rules would hurt businesses. She compared the NSPS rule on power plants to the Obama administration's effort to make cars cleaner and go further on less fuel, an initiative that arguably has not harmed automaker profits.
"We cannot afford to let scare tactics keep our nation from the proven common sense solutions like cleaner energy that will protect our children's health and create a more prosperous America," she said.
Reporting By Timothy Gardner